The Weekly Round-Up #334 With The Omega Men #11, Aliens: Defiance #1, Image+ #1, Micronauts #1, Squadron Supreme #6, Star Wars #18 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

The Omega Men #11DC’s best book is getting close to its big end, as is the war between the Omega Men and rest of the Vega system and the Citadel.  Much of this issue is given over to seeing each surviving Omega gather their army, and as with every issue to this point, it’s very well written.  I’m sad that Tom King is not going to be writing the type of comic, in the Rebirth era, where he can be given complete carte blanche to do whatever he wants.  His work on Grayson was kind of groundbreaking, but it was with this book and Marvel’s Vision that he really showcased his potential to craft original comics.  He won’t be able to do that with Batman.

Quick Takes:

Aliens: Defiance #1 – Aliens comics are often pretty tricky.  It’s not hard to put together a character study in the world that has been built around the original two movies, but it’s also very easy to fall into the familiar and predictable patterns of exploration, discovery, siege, and single survivordom.  This new series is being written by Brian Wood, which is why it stood out for me on the stands, and it’s interesting.  He introduces us to Zula, a Colonial Marine who, with a detachment of artificial combat drones, is tasked with boarding and securing a derelict vessel.  Of course, the ship has ‘aliens’ on it, and some of the usual stuff happens, but then Wood has one of the drones take charge, and decide to research his company’s goals and responsibility for events.  I’m not sure how long this is set to run, but it could be interesting.  I like the darkness of Tristan Jones’s art here.

Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega #1I feel like this whole Standoff event has been a misstep for Marvel, so soon into their ANAD initiative.  Really, this is a big Captain America story that, instead of taking place in its own book, swell and encompassed a number of other titles that had little to do with it.  I didn’t read any of the tie-ins aside from ANAD Avengers, and with the possible exception of Uncanny Avengers, I didn’t feel like I’d missed a single thing.  Now, this also being a Marvel event, valuable space had to be given over to setting up the upcoming Thunderbolts series (which I think I’m going to pass on, even though I like Jim Zub’s writing), and the new Quasar.  What was interesting about this was the fact that Maria Hill is in a position where she may lose her job (hopefully not to be replaced by Nick Fury Jr. or Phil Coulson), and that Nick Spencer has revitalized the Red Skull as a potential threat (when did Sin’s face get fixed?).  Otherwise, there’s a lot here that could be easily skipped.  And probably should have been…

Batgirl #51 – The last issue of this series really felt like a last issue, so it’s a little jarring to read this one, which has Barbara’s friends picking up the slack around Burnside while she focuses on running her clean energy company.  Knowing that this book is over next issue, and that it’s Rebirth will take Barbara away from the status quo Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart spent so much time establishing makes everything about this story feel superfluous.  There are a ton of guests here, including Vixen and some of the Gotham Academy kids, but I never got very absorbed in the story.  It’s too bad, because I liked where this book was going before.

Black Canary #11I feel like Brenden Fletcher has really lost me with the last few issues of Black Canary.  This series began as a cool take on a classic character, but as the story has become about Dinah’s mother’s kung fu secrets and an 80s pop demon, I’m either totally lost or just completely uninterested.  If this title weren’t ending with the next issue, I’d be abandoning ship, but at the same time, I think that, were this title not ending with the next issue, Fletcher would have had the time and space to let this story unfold more naturally.

Daredevil #6 – Elektra comes to town, and her presence really makes us wonder about just how Daredevil has been able to hide his real identity from the world.  It’s weird when it comes to someone like Elektra, who was in a relationship with both sides of his life.  Anyway, Matteo Buffagni provides the art for this issue (this arc?) and his style fits well with the design aesthetic Ron Garney created for the ANAD era.  This continues to be a very good book.

Doctor Strange #7 – We get a better understanding of who the Empirikul are this issue, as they continue to try to kill every magic user in the world.  When a group are saved by an old magician, everyone bemoans the fact that they don’t have enough magic left for a teleportation spell, despite the fact that Magik is there and that’s her mutant power.  Anyway, this series has been a great showcase for Chris Bachalo’s art, and that makes this very enjoyable.

Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #4Joe Kelly brings the second volume of Four Eyes to a very satisfying conclusion, as the titular dragon has to fight to protect young Enrico, who himself has even bigger dragons to slay, metaphorically speaking.  Max Fiumara’s art on this book is gorgeous, and leaves me wanting more.  I’m hoping it won’t be too long before we see this book return, as I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Hellboy and the BPRD 1953 – Beyond the Fences #3 – This story, with its awesome Paolo Rivera artwork, comes to its conclusion, and introduces a new Russian character that seems interesting, but not too interesting, since we’ve never seen her in the various Mignola-verse books set in the present day.  My interest in this line of comics has really nose-dived lately, so I think this may be the last Hellboy book I pick up for a while.

Image+ #1 – I think it’s very cool that Image is including this new magazine inside each issue of Previews.  I’ve always seen buying Previews as a bit of an unavoidable cost to maintaining the hobby (like Wednesday comic run gas money), and am very happy to get some actual content out of it for a change.  To begin with, the interviews with creators who have books coming out in July have me more interested in them than I would have been otherwise, especially Throwaways, because I wasn’t previously impressed with Caitlin Kittredge’s writing.  Now I’m going to be giving this new title a chance.  Most exciting in this magazine is, of course, the beginning of a Walking Dead serial by Kirkman and Adlard that focuses on Negan, showing us that he’s always been a foul-mouthed jerk.  I also really got into the preview of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s upcoming After Death graphic novel.  I got so wrapped up in the short preview that I was surprised when it came to an end.  The other feature I appreciated most is the interview with colourist Jordie Bellaire, who has become a standard of quality for me in recent years – if she’s colouring a comic, I’m going to assume it’s going to be good.  It has been ages since I was this excited about what is essentially corporate advertising, but because of the high standards at Image, this is much more than that.

Imperium #15Livewire and the HARD Corps continue their assault on Harada’s fleet, and this means that most of the issue is given over to action.  There are some cool moments here, as the series builds towards a big confrontation with Harada.

Injection #9 – The various people responsible for the creation of the Injection start coming together in this issue, as Headland survives a clumsy assassination attempt, and then so do his friends.  Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey have created a very interesting series here, one that continues to grow and impress.

International Iron Man #2 – I’m not sure about this series.  I don’t know how I feel about Brian Michael Bendis retconning yet another set of facts and people into Tony Stark’s life before he became Iron Man, and I’m anxious that he’s going to end up making Tony somehow related to the Gillespie family, in an attempt to Darth Vader this whole series.  I have this thing with most Bendis books (not any starring Miles Morales) where I keep buying them, and I keep wondering why I keep buying them.  It makes me not like myself a whole lot sometimes.

Low #13 – Once again, Rick Remender goes for some shock factor, as we follow sisters Tajoe and Della, and their sister-in-law Lena, on their mission to try to reconnect with their mother on the Earth’s surface.  Along the way, we learn that all is not as it seems with Lena, and some stuff happens that I’d be a jerk to talk about.  This is a very good series, always, and as it progresses, it seems that Remender is more and more interested in keeping any character far away from having something good happen to them.

Micronauts #1 I was a big fan of Marvel’s Micronauts comic when I was a kid, and I believe that it is a series that stands up very well.  I was excited to see what Cullen Bunn would do with the property, but if I’m being honest, I’m a little on the fence about what he gave us in this first issue.  To begin with, so much of what made Micronauts great has nothing to do with the original toy line, and everything to do with the heart that Bill Mantlo, Michael Golden, Butch Guice, and a few others wove into the story.  Many of the best characters in that series were owned by Marvel, and not the toy line, and are therefore off-limits to Bunn and this series.  He’s worked at reenvisioning much of the property, and has created what could be an interesting world, but in this first issue, we weren’t given enough space to explore it yet.  My hope is that future issues will be able to dig more deeply into the texture of the book, and not be as focused on generic action.  Part of the problem with this is artist David Baldeon, whose art is nice, but not particularly memorable.  I’m definitely going to give Bunn the first arc, and want to see this book succeed.  More than that, I want to dig out my run of the original series and dive back into it…

Ms. Marvel #6 – Kamala has to manage her whole army of clone situation, and that involves calling in Captain Marvel in a scene that feels like it’s being used to help set up Civil War II (Iron Man and Carol definitely show some passive aggression towards one another).  As always, this book is charming.

Old Man Logan #5The new arc, Bordertown, keeps me interested in this book, as Logan leaves the X-Men to go look for someone from his past/our future, but ends up drawing the attention of one of his regular rogues.  The team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are very good together, and that’s why this is the only mutant book I’m reading right now.

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #18 – The third arc of this series ends with a whole lot of things being made more clear, especially the breadth and depth of the threat that Kyle and Reverend Anderson are facing.  There’s a lot more possessed people in town than we thought.  Much of this issue does not even feature our main characters, and I think that makes it a more effective issue, as this book has had a strong supporting cast almost from the jump.  

Power Lines #2 – Jimmie Robinson’s new series has really caught my eye.  D-Trick is a nice kid growing up in a rough neighbourhood, who has discovered that he can tap into some sort of power, giving himself extra abilities.  He recognizes the same abilities in a woman who lives in a ritzy town, who his friend stole from.  In this issue, he travels to her town to return her purse to her, and then while heading back home, stops a bus crash and saves a number of people from a fire.  Of course, because he’s black, he is painted as a criminal and finds himself arrested for his heroism.  As I was reading this, I felt that some of the characters and their reactions felt cartoonish and unrealistic, but then I remembered that I’m not an American, and started thinking about some of the people I’ve been seeing interviewed about politics in the last six months, and then started wondering if Robinson was perhaps toning things down.  Either way, Robinson is doing a good job of tapping into the nonsense that is crippling his nation, and making it look ridiculous (at least I hope people who read this feel that way).  It’s good stuff.

Saga #36We’ve been building towards Hazel’s reunion with her parents for a while, and that makes this a very satisfying issue (although her and Alanna don’t ever get a moment to themselves the way she does with Marco).  Once again, Saga’s heading to hiatus for a while, but it’s all good, because I’ve gotten very used to the rhythms of this book.

Sex #27 – It’s great to see this book come back after a lengthy delay, as Joe Casey pushes a variety of subplots forward.  It feels like things are building towards some resolution though, as the Skins show up when Simon Cooke is entertaining the widow of the Japanese businessman who killed their sex workers.  Keenan runs across Annabelle, and Larry and Simon have a long overdue chat.  This continues to be a very good series.

Sex Criminals #15 – I can think of few things more awkward than having your girlfriend meet your therapist while the porn star you loved as a kid hangs out in your apartment, but that’s just some of what goes on in this issue.  As always, Sex Criminals is a great read, as Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky slowly move their story forward, but give us a ton of great character moments.  I haven’t been hearing a lot of praise for this title lately, and that’s not right; this is a very thoughtful, very funny comic.

Spider-Woman #6I’ve got to learn to stop preordering titles that cross over into other titles I don’t read.  This comic is the fourth chapter of the Spider-Women event, but the first that I’ve read, and as such, I’m both a little lost and a lot uninterested.  Originally, I thought I’d stick with this title through the event because I love Javier Rodriguez’s art, but he didn’t draw this (Joelle Jones did, and while she is also incredibly good, she is no Rodriguez, and her work here looked a little rushed).

Squadron Supreme #6 – James Robinson is accelerating his storytelling now, cramming a good amount of character development into this book (especially for Doctor Spectrum and Thundra) while bringing a few regular Marvel characters like Black Bolt and the original Nighthawk into the picture.  I’m glad I stuck with this title through the rather unfortunate Weirdworld arc, as it’s keeping my interest here.  

Star Wars #18 – Leia, Sana, and Dr. Aphra continue to try to take back the Rebel prison from the mysterious figure who has taken it over, and we are given hints that perhaps this is someone we are going to recognize whenever he or she gets unmasked.  This arc has felt much less Star Wars than any other part of this series so far, especially with its nerf-smuggling subplot, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.

Strange Fruit #3There are so many things wrong with Mark Waid’s and JG Jones’s Strange Fruit that I don’t even feel comfortable enumerating them here.  The concept behind this series is that a black Superman figure arrives in the deep South at a time when an imminent flood threatens a community that is highly racially divided.  I’ve not been all that comfortable with the way Waid has chosen to tell this story, and I’m not loving Jones’s washed-out painting as much as I’d expected to.  This series is very late, and I was partly hoping that Boom! had just given up on it.  I think there’s a place for an examination of race through stories like this, but I feel that Waid is falling way short with this series.

The Ultimates #6 – The Ultimates has been an odd series since its inception, but this is a very peculiar issue, drawn by guest artist Christian Ward, and starring the new, positive force Galactus as he gets into a fight with the cosmic avatars of Order and Chaos, and hangs out with Molecule Man (who doesn’t seem to be with the Richards family at the moment).  I really like what Al Ewing has done with this series, and find his cosmic-level architecture of the ANAD Marvel Universe interesting.  I am, however, more interested in the characters who usually fill this book than I am Galactus, especially since Civil War II is coming, and is likely to derail this book for a little while, as every event ever has messed up Ewings’s two takes on the Mighty Avengers before this.  I wish Marvel would just leave the guy alone and let him write.

Velvet #14Stakes just keep getting higher in this series, as Velvet decides that the best way to figure out all that’s going on is to kidnap Richard Nixon for a little while so she can pick his brain.  This is another great issue, but the lengthy delays between each comic really hurts its momentum.

Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:

All-New Wolverine #7

Amazing Spider-Man #11

Batman #51

Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic #1

Faith #4

Grayson #19

Secret Six #13

Suiciders King of HelLA #2

We Are Robin #11

X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever #3

Bargain Comics:

Amazing Spider-Man #4-9It’s nice to get most of the caught up with Spidey.  I like this new approach, where Spidey is basically a nicer version of Tony Stark, running a company which has concerningly close ties with SHIELD, but affords him a richer supporting cast.  I especially like the weird team-up chemistry between him and Mockingbird.  I also really like the new look.  I’m not happy to see that Dan Slott has brought Doctor Octopus back already (albeit in a diminished capacity – it’s too soon to go back to that whole thing).

Uncanny Avengers #4&5 – I wasn’t all that impressed with the debut of this series, but with these two issues, things are beginning to feel a little more settled, and the team is starting to feel a little more like a team (although I have no idea if Cable is supposed to be on it or is just hanging around).  There are still plenty of things that need more explanation, such as what is going on with Rogue’s health, and why Johnny Storm doesn’t have any kind of personality anymore, but it’s moving in the right direction.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred

Written by David Hine and Shaky Kane
Art by Shaky Kane

I read the first The Bulletproof Coffin miniseries, but don’t remember a whole lot about it besides the fact that it was rather odd, and had terrific artwork.  I recently got my hands on the second trade, Disinterred, and have been very impressed with it.David Hine and Shaky Kane have basically just done whatever they’ve felt like with this surrealistic and bizarre comic.  Individual issues may tell a story or not, and those stories may or may not link up in certain thematic ways, or feature a common story thread.

We are given stories about a paranoid police officer, an electively mute caretaker who copes with the loss of her daughter by breaking into peoples’ homes, and are invited to an open mic night for storytellers who tell some very dark tales.

There is also an entire issue made up of unconnected panels that can be read in any order, and another that simulates a collection of trading cards that tell the story of The Hateful Dead.

Things in this book loop back on themselves in a number of different places, and the feeling of dread never goes away.  The editorials by ‘Destroyovski’ make plain the influences of literary figures like William S. Burroughs (Dr. Benway even makes an appearance) and Brion Gysin, and the comics do experiment with some of their writing techniques.

At the end of the day, this is a very good comic to put in the hands of someone who misses earlier Grant Morrison, or who likes having some very unique images just wash over them.  I’m surprised that there wasn’t more discussion of this comic when it came out, but I can also see how it could have been easily overlooked.

Concrete Park Vol. 2 R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Written by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander
Art by Tony Puryear

When Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s Concrete Park first debuted in Dark Horse Presents, I was immediately taken with their fascinating science fiction world.  On a distant planet, convicts are sent to work in subterranean mines, but a large group of freed and escaped cons have congregated in Scare City, dividing themselves into gangs that carefully protect their own borders.We travelled into this world with Isaac, a new arrival from Earth whose transport ship crashes, with he and the man who killed his sister the only survivors.  New arrivals are a big deal on the planet (especially if they might be bringing food or other supplies with them), and we were quickly introduced to some of the major players on the planet or in the story, chief among them being Luca.

This second volume opens shortly after Isaac first meets Luca and her gang, just as they are beset upon by scavengers.  They make their way into the city, where the Potato King has made his move to seize territory from Luca.

There’s a lot of chaos in this volume, which began life as a miniseries that was never concluded (I hate when publishers do that, and it makes me less likely to try out new minis) until the whole thing was collected in this second volume.  The story sprawls all over the place, as Isaac ends up in Las Cruces, where the gang leader employs some sort of magic, before finding himself in a gladiatorial arena, having to fight his sister’s killer.

Along the way, we picked up subplots involving a race of natives indigenous to the planet, and a storyline involving food that grows there (apparently food is all imported, and shipments are decreasing). Then we get into the planet’s gods, and things start to get really weird (while at least explaining the series’s title).

There is a lot to like about this book, but I felt that as the story expanded in this volume, it really started to lose me.  I don’t know if that’s because Puryear and Alexander felt the need to accelerate their story due to low sales making a larger space less likely, or if this was always the plan, but it felt like a misstep to me.  Scare City is a fascinating place, and more time exploring it and getting to know some of its stranger denizens could only have made it better.

I like the way Puryear transfer LA gang culture to another planet, and weaves a variety of languages into the everyday English that’s spoken on the streets.  It feels like a lot of thought and planning went into this series, and I would love to read a lot more of it; I just want to be able to follow the story in an organic way.

I don’t know if there are further plans for more Concrete Park, but with the intensity of Puryear and Alexander’s vision, and the figure-oriented beauty of Puryear’s art, I’d be all over it.

A Sailor’s Story

by Sam Glanzman

I know that Sam Glanzman’s memoir of his wartime service, A Sailor’s Story, has just been republished in anew edition, but I came across the original Marvel version not all that long ago, and decided that I wanted to read it in its original form.

Glanzman is a known writer and artist of war comics, but I’m not sure that he did more than two books about his own life.  This graphic novel opens on the very young Sam, an orphan and alone at seventeen save for a beloved dog, signing up to go to war.  He ends up in the Navy, and spends the entire war on boats in the Pacific.

He gives us a very day-to-day view of the drudgery and boredom of military service, as he chips and paints metal, hides from a superior to avoid work, and gets bizarre beer drinking vacations on rowboats.

While Glanzman is very open about many aspects of his service, he never really develops into a fully-realized character.  We see him react to things, but only rarely get a sense of his interior life.  He takes a scholarly approach to the slang and customs of the military, but none of the characters, aside from one crewman who loses his marbles, stand out on the page.

I like the draftsman’s quality of Glanzman’s art, which is very focused on little details.  This is a valuable example of war comics, and I’m pleased to see that it’s being put back out into circulation.